The San Jose Earthquakes must feel pretty good about themselves right now. They have won three of their last four games and pushed themselves safely into the last playoff spot with room to spare and games in hand. And they must be thrilled to see Geovanni make such a powerful impact in his first full game as a starter, scoring one goal and assisting another. Khari Stephenson and Geovanni have combined to reinvigorate a stagnant offensive attack and San Jose has continued to play solid, scrappy defense despite massive injury issues. And tonight they can measure themselves against the hottest, and arguably the best team in the MLS.
FC Dallas has not lost a game since May 20th - more than three months. They haven't lost a road game since the 3rd game of the season. True, they have settled for more ties than any other team in the league, but with a defense that has not allowed more than one goal in a game since April, the chances of losing are slim. But San Jose will have home field advantage and should be brimming with confidence after a momentum building win in Houston last week.
To beat Dallas San Jose will have to get a goal or two past Kevin Hartman, perhaps the best goalie in MLS this year. He leads the league in goals-against-average and save percentage and is a large reason why Dallas has been so incredibly consistent in defense. The defensive back line is anchored by George John, who has started every game for Dallas this season.
The Dallas attack is led by David Ferriera, an attacking midfielder who leads the team in minutes played and assists and has the 2nd most goals. Containing Ferriera will be a major challenge for whichever Earthquake is selected to play defensive midfielder, likely Brandon McDonald, and will be a major matchup to watch. Ferriera's favorite target is Jamaican Jeff Cunningham, who has collected 8 goals on the season to lead Dallas in scoring.
This is a real chance to grade the progress San Jose has made. Getting any points from a team as hot as Dallas would be a solid result, and a win would be a huge windfall for San Jose's confidence and playoff chances. A loss would not be the end of the world, but if it came in a fashion that indicates that San Jose is still a few steps away from truly competing with the elite in MLS it could be a sobering result.